Premise 6: Neuro-Semantics searches for the structure of experiences. Neuro-Semantics arose from the revolutionary work of Alfred Korzybski in the field of General Semantics via his book Science and Sanity. That work initiated the search for structure. That’s because Korzybski said that the only content of knowledge is structure. If our maps are not the same as the territory, but are symbols, maps, representations, facsimiles of the territory, then structure, and structure only, can give clue as to what we’re dealing with and how to cope effectively as we move through the territory.
From this concept Korzybski provides NLP its foundation. The developers of NLP founded their approach upon the core principle of General Semantics: “The map is not the territory.” That lead them to searching for the structure of the interventions and communications that seemed so magical which that they found in the therapeutic geniuses—Fritz Perls, Virginia Satir, and Milton Erickson. And with the development of NLP, of “the study of the structure of subjectivity,” came a whole field dedicated to modeling the structure of experience.7
In the meantime, other disciplines developed a very similar vision and direction. >From the Cognitive Sciences, the neuro-sciences, meta-cognition, cognitive linguistics, artificial intelligence, etc., the search for structure continued.
Neuro-Semantics, growing out of NLP and other disciplines, continues this adventure of studying the structure of intentionality and meaning. Doing this takes NLP to a new level. Using the Meta-States Model, we explore the levels of mind to model the systemic structure we find in actual awareness. This means modeling the structure of reflexivity, recursiveness, thinking in circles, thinking in loops, going round and round, etc. It’s all very messy. It lacks the nice linear black-and-white structure of Behaviorism’s old Stimulus—Response model.
Premise 7: Neuro-Semantics facilitates the change process in multiple ways. I have already mentioned three change factors: create a high quality relationship of rapport for the safety and trust that allows a person to experience a mirroring of his or her own reality. The older psychologists (Freud, Adler, Jung, etc.) often said, “Awareness per se is curative.” And sometimes it is. Sometimes when you can truly and safely see and hear yourself and witness yourself, that awareness changes things. Suddenly the deception is over. So just your presence of care, compassion, safety, and trustworthiness as you enter the system, changes things.
But not always. If the kind of awareness you bring to yourself is judgmental awareness, you will make things worse. Then a downward negative spiraling begins. So that’s where holding the frame in the context of just exploring to see what’s there introduces non-judgmental awareness and pure witnessing. NLP got this idea of pure witnessing as a powerful change agent from Fritz Perls who said, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.”
Third, there is the change factor of changing the frame. If the frame of meaning is the problem, then changing it, changes the person. Transformation occurs by altering the reference point. And whether it is an old belief, decision, understanding, prohibition, intention, identity, metaphor, etc., altering or reframing the mental map transforms things.
Two key change principles that we use in Neuro-Semantics are these.
First, we can change no one, but as we change, the game changes and that invites others to change.
Second, we can change no one, but we can facilitate another to choose to change.
Both of these principles empower you to give up the need to change people. Knowing that you can’t, you then release others from the grip of your manipulations. And when you do, something magical happens. People change. They change because the pressure is off. And when the pressure is off, then the person is thrown back on one of the most important Neuro-Semantic principles: The responsibility and freedom of choice point.
Choice point can occur at any and every meta-level in a person’s Matrix. By holding the frames, mirroring them back, providing a context of care and support, you invite a person to step back or step up and gain a larger or wider perspective. “Ah, this is what you have been thinking-feeling, believing, understanding, identifying with, etc., how is that?” It’s an open-ended question and it is a question that begins to invite the person to a point of choice.
“So what do you want to do? Do you like that belief? That prohibition? That intention? Does that understanding serve you well? Does that frame empower you as a person?”
These are quality control questions, because that’s what they do. They invite the person to check the quality of their frames and at the same time they put the person at choice point. It is their life. What will they do? Perceiving at this higher level empowers them now with the ability to respond as so they choose. And this typically is creates a leverage for the changes that the person has been looking for.
Facilitating change in a person who has developed a strong enough sense of self (what we call ego-strength) moves through four stages: Motivation, Decision, Creation, and Integration. These are the four axes in the Axes of Change Model of Neuro-Semantics which was originally designed for the Meta-Coaching System. That is, to facilitate a person through the change process requires four resources:
I. Energy or motivation to move away from what does not work and energy to move toward one’s dreams, visions, and hopes— the life that a person wants to experience. Is there enough energy in the person’s mind-body system to invest the effort for change? If no, work the motivation axes. If yes, then move to the next resource.
II. Decisiveness to make an informed and clearly weighed decision for paying the price that the change will require. Has the person weighed the pros and cons of making the change and of not making the change? Is the person crystal clear about the price that he or she will pay for making the decision for or against the change? If no, then probe the person’s pros and cons and the values inherent in each and then challenge them to make the decision. If yes, then move on to the next resource.
III. A creative new vision mapped out as a blueprint of the new life chosen and a plan for innovating this creativity in everyday life. With the preparation for change completed, now comes the research and development phase as the person puts together a plan or a strategy for the change. Does the person know with precision and clarity what and how she will make the change happen? Does the person have a time-table and schedule for beginning to innovate and actualize the plan? If no, then work the creation axes. If yes, then move on to the next resource.
IV. An integration in life-style so that the new change is now in muscle-memory as the person’s way of being in the world. Change created and begun won’t last if not practiced in a disciplined way until it becomes automatic and one’s default program. Have you reinforced and celebrated that successful steps so that a person finds the effort rewarded and the pattern now integrated? Have you begun the continuous improvement of testing the pattern to see what else could be taken to a new level? If no, then work the integration axes. If yes, then what’s the next change you want to embrace and experience?
Facilitating change in Neuro-Semantics can occur in that deliberate, conscious, and methodical way; it can also occur in a more unconscious and holistic way. For that we use The Crucible Model.8 This model utilizes the key change ingredients of Carl Rogers (unconditional positive regard, accurate empathy, and authenticity) along with other ingredients from Maslow, May, etc.— witnessing, acceptance, responsibility, and appreciation. Put all these together into a metaphorical space that brings out a person’s best and you can then create a crucible space where old learnings can be reprocessed and the heat of truth—response-ability—and appreciation can come together for a transformation. The clue that it works is an ecstasy of falling back in love with life, with self, with others, with meaningfulness.8
Premise 8: Neuro-Semantics facilitates an unleashing of potentials that enables the transformation of personality, identity, and life’s purpose. Finally, all of these premises culminate in the premise of self-actualization. It was Maslow and Rogers who postulated that the self-actualization drive is our most fundamental drive of all. It is the drive to keep moving forward and upward in making real (actualizing) what is clamoring within you. This life-long and never-ending drive is a drive to be real, to be who and what you are, and to keep transcending and including your current life situation.
This is a drive for becoming increasingly more and more authentic so that you unleash your real self. And in doing that, then you step into “the zone” or the “flow” zone, or the “genius” state of experiencing and giving yourself to that which makes you come truly alive and make a contribution that makes a difference in the world.9
Here’s a paradox: while self-actualization has the term “self” within it, it is not about you. It is about actualizing yourself— your gifts, abilities, potentials, etc. so that you can truly contribute what is uniquely yours to contribute. And in that way, you truly make a difference in the world.
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.